Divestment resolution at University of Minnesota faces uphill battle prior to vote
The divestment resolution, which was presented to the University of Minnesota Student Association (MSA) last week, will be voted on tonight.
Since University of Minnesota Divest launched its campaign to get the university to remove its investments from four corporations that are profiting from human rights violations against Palestinians, it has faced backlash from a student group, the university president and from an anonymous source.
A counter-resolution was proposed by Students Supporting Israel (SSI), which requested that the Minnesota Student Association (MSA) adopt a “troubling definition” of anti-Semitism that conflates criticism of Israel and Israeli government policies with anti-Semitism. That resolution will be voted on Tuesday as well.
A Forum will be held before both resolutions are voted on.
“I think it is frustrating that the timing of these two resolutions has created such a binary atmosphere. It’s really polarized the situation and made it seem more negative to support human rights. But we believe in our resolution and our allies’ support. We are focusing on our resolution. It clearly speaks for itself, we ask only that our university divest from two American companies and promise not to invest in one British company and one Israeli company because all four of them are profiting off human rights violations in Palestine. This would keep our tradition of supporting human rights alive and well, after our divestment from South Africa in 1985 and Sudan in 2007,” UMN Divest organizer Sara Halimah said to Palestine in America.
In response to both resolutions, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler released a statement against either of them being passed.
“The University does not endorse measures advocated in the SJP resolution, which has been offered in support of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement. The BDS Movement, while not directly mentioned in the resolution, has called for a comprehensive academic, cultural, economic and consumer boycott of Israel. In general, our university should be wary about such boycotts, given our core values of academic freedom and our commitment to the free exchange of ideas, uncertainty about the impact of such efforts, and concerns that we may be unfairly singling out one government and the citizens of the country in question. In this case, my concerns are heightened by the fact that the Global BDS movement does not seem to distinguish between opposition to the policies of the government of Israel and opposition to the existence of Israel,” he wrote.
“I have also been asked about the SSI resolution condemning anti-semitism. Our University strongly and unequivocally condemns prejudice and hostility toward Jews, as we condemn bias against any groups. And I share the concerns of many that we must be especially vigilant in light of resurgent anti-‐semitism in Europe and anti-semitism in other parts of the world. Yet I am also concerned that the second resolution may limit the prospects for constructive campus dialogue, in light of its possible implication that supporters of the disinvestment resolution are also supporters of anti-‐semitism. I do welcome vigorous and civil debate on these issues, but I am concerned that this second resolution may not advance that objective.”
Palestine Legal issued a letter to the MSA, also asking them to reject SSI’s resolution and any efforts to falsely tie anti-semitism with criticism of Israel. Passing the resolution would ensure that free speech and expression does not occur on campus, according to Palestine Legal.
Besides Kaler and SSI voicing their opposition for UMN Divest’s resolution, the coalition was also attacked anonymously online. It’s graphic design for the campaign was defamed. A swastika was put in place of the olive tree branch that was used in UMN Divest’s original design.
It is not yet confirmed who made altered the design with the hateful symbol.